What Games Should An SNES Classic Include?

Image From Nintendo Wikia

For all of its awesomeness, the NES Classic went out on a sour note, as several months of scarcity were capped by a brief statement declaring that its production run had been ended. The sudden, unceremonious end of the Classic led to a lot of speculation as to why Nintendo would pull the plug on what appeared to be a hot item, almost at hot as its current Switch console.

Now, however, Eurogamer is reporting that the end of the NES Classic was inevitable, as Nintendo is planning to release an SNES Classic this holiday season and required the NES Classic’s production resources for its newest Classic release.

Speculation over what games the SNES Classic might include has been going on ever since its predecessor was released, but it’s still exciting to think about the possibilities given the incredible library of games released for the system. Here are my suggestions for the roster:

The No-Brainers:

  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario Kart
  • The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo

No surprises here: You want to move systems, you bring out the big franchises. SMW, Mario Kart, DKC, DKC 2, and Zelda are five of the six best-selling SNES games of all time (and the sixth in an earlier version of Street Fighter). DKC 3 could perhaps be debated (do we really need three DKC games?), but the entire trilogy was pretty strong, so I added it here for completeness.

The Would-Be-Nicers:

  • Star Fox
  • Super Mario All-Stars
  • Kirby’s Dream Land 3
  • Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
  • Mega Man X
  • Mega Man X2
  • Mega Man X3
  • Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run
  • NBA Jam Tournamanet Edition
  • The Lost Vikings
  • The Lost Vikings II
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Mortal Kombat II
  • Super Punch-Out!!

Star Fox was the start of one of Nintendo’s great franchises, and fans that are fed up with Star Fox Zero‘s motion controls deserve a little gift here. Super Mario All-Stars already came out (mostly) for the NES Classic, but given how few people were able to obtain that system, it makes sense for the expanded, remastered version to appear here. Kirby 3 and MK 3 are included as the best representative from their respective franchises, and at least two of the Mega Man X series deserve to be included here. Ken Griffey Jr. and NBA Jam were some of the best sports titles available for the system (and given the paucity of sports titles coming to the Switch, it would be nice to throw sports gamers a bone here). Finally, The Lost Vikings series was an underrated puzzle adventure series (probably one of the two is enough here, though), and Mortal Kombat and Super Punch-Out team up with Street Fighter to ensure the fighting genre is well-represented on a pre-Smash Bros. console.

The Forgotten Franchises:

  • Super Metroid
  • F-Zero
  • Pilotwings

It’s time to remind modern gamers that Samus Aran and Captain Falcom were more than just Smash Bros. fighters once upon a time. Pilotwings is a small-but-successful flight simulator franchise that deserves to be remembered.

The RPGs:

  • Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars
  • Final Fantasy V
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Secret Of Mana
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Dragon Quest V
  • Dragon Quest VI
  • Breath Of Fire
  • Breath Of Fire II
  • Lufia & The Fortress Of Doom
  • Lufia II: Rise Of The Sinistrals

The Super Nintendo held the title of “greatest RPG console” long before the 3DS did, and Mario RPG, FF, Secret Of Mana, Chromo Trigger, and Dragon Quest are just as beloved today as they were back then. The Breath of Fire and Lufia series have mostly faded into obscurity, but they were fun games that deserve a little recognition.

The Longshots:

  • Mario Paint
  • Mario Is Missing!
  • Mario’s Time Machine
  • Super Game Boy?

Mario Paint would be an awesome game to include, but it would require either a) a special mouse peripheral to be included, or b) a PS2 or USB port for a standard PC mouse to be included in the hardware, so Mario Maker is probably as close to a comeback as it’s going to make. Mario is Missing and Mario’s Time Machine were novelty educational games that really only deserve to be remembered for how weird they were. A “Super Game Boy Classic” with some pre-loaded Game Boy games would be an interesting inclusion, but the SNES library is strong enough on its own and Nintendo will probably want to release a separate Game Boy Classic separately in the future.

The Hardware:

  • A slot for SNES cartridges!
  • A Virtual-Console-esque connection!

Adding a slot for people who still have their old games would solve some of the ‘what games to include?’ problem (You want to play your old copy of Pitfall or NHL ’96? Just plug them in!), and a VC connection to allow for some DLC updates (i.e., more games!) in the near future.

A mini SNES is guaranteed to be a huge hit, regardless of what games are included. Let’s just hope Nintendo makes enough of them to meet demand this time.

My Reaction To The Nintendo Direct

Yesterday, Nintendo presented a long-overdue Nintendo Direct outlining their game lineup for the next few months. While the main focus was on its upcoming Switch titles ARMS and Splatoon 2, the company also released a ton of information on other games and hardware. Here are my early impressions on the presentation:

  • Overall, I really liked the format of the presentation. The outlines gave people an idea of what to expect, the games were grouped into logical categories, and the time was divided up to keep the focus squarely on the major titles. However, I wish the general 3DS and Switch sections had been a little slower and less rapid-fire, as I had trouble keeping up with all the announcements and vitally lost some of them in the shuffle. Expanding the presentation to 40 or 45 minutes and slowing down at those points would have helped a lot.
  • I mentioned in my E3 post that Nintendo needed to lay out the future of the 3DS, but instead they decided to do it here…and honestly, I was really surprised by the amount of content coming to Nintendo’s older handheld. In particular, it’s a good time to be an RPG fan with a 3DS, as no less than six role-playing games were discussed in the 3DS portion of the Direct (and a seventh had a new DLC announcement). As someone who likes as many customization options as possible in a game, I was most intrigued by Miitopia (because everyone’s boss deserves to be a pop star) and RPG Maker Fes (Super Mario Maker on steroids!), but the new Monster HunterYo-Kai Watch, and Ever Oasis had their moments as well. (I’m a bit concerned for Ever Oasis, however: It was billed as an exciting new IP not that long ago, but it failed to stand out in the Direct’s crowded field.) With these announcements, Nintendo made an emphatic statement that the 3DS is alive and well, and won’t be going away anytime soon.
  • The non-RPG 3DS titles were less interesting to me:
    • I’m not terribly excited by Hey! Pikmin, especially given the other 2D platformers already on the 3DS (Kirby: Triple DeluxeKirby: Planet Robobot, and Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World), but the Pikmin at least allow for some interesting mechanics.
    • Speaking of Kirby…while his 25th anniversary looks to be more promising than Sonic’s, the games they discussed were mostly expanded versions of minigames, and thus the reveals were a bit underwhelming. We’ll see what the third game they mentioned turns out to be, but it doesn’t sound all that intriguing just yet.
  • Getting Minecraft on the Switch is a huge deal for Nintendo. This is a hugely-popular game, and it old-school graphical style means that unlike Overwatch, the Switch’s technical specs are not an issue. Having Minecraft is not sufficient to make the Switch successful, but it’s definitely necessary.
  • I’m not as bullish on the rest of the Switch’s third-party announcements. The Sonic games and Disgaea 5 look interesting, but otherwise it’s a bunch of older games that I wasn’t interested in playing when they originally came out (much less now), and smaller games that don’t appear to have a lot of replay value. It looks like Nintendo will be fighting the image of “the system with no good third-party games” for a while longer. Still, the fact that there were so many games discussed certainly counters the notion that the Switch library is too thin to warrant buying one.
  • Fans of fighting games will find a lot to like about ARMS. Nintendo showed off some interesting new content (I fully support a character based on ramen noodles), and discussed how character and weapon choices introduce a lot of strategy into the game. While I’m personally not interested in the title, I think people who enjoy these sorts of games will find ARMS to be a worthy title.
  • Of all the things I mentioned that Splatoon 2  could learn from Overwatch, a horde mode was not one I had thought of…but It. Looks. Awesome. I love the idea of being able to resuscitate splatted teammates, the enemy designs look unique and challenging, and I think teaming up with your friends to gather golden eggs would be a really fun time. My hope is that a) the special gear you wear is also available to use in Turf Wars and Ranked Battles, and b) you’re not locked to specific weapon choices in Salmon Run (if I’m fighting an endless horde of enemies, I want my .96 Gal, darn it!).

Overall, I think the Direct was a net positive for Nintendo and will help keep momentum for both the Switch and the 3DS going for the foreseeable future. The company probably still has an ace or two in the hole for E3, but this was enough to get people’s attention.

Now, if people could only find a Switch to buy…

The Transformative Power of Animal Crossing

In the face of a Nintendo Switch shortage, I’ve started expanding my 3DS library in order to get a proper portable gaming fix. The first of my new acquisitions is 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and while I’ve only played the game for a few days now, I’m starting to think Nintendo may have much more than a simple life sim on it hands.

On the surface, New Leaf is about building and running a town full of citizens with very different needs and desires. Nothing in the game happens terribly quickly (except house building, where a structure can go from bare ground to a finished product in a mere 24 hours), and as someone with a background full of more-traditional games, I can only catch so many fish and shake so many peaches off trees before I get bored and jump back to games with more immediate challenges and rewards, like Splatoon or Super Mario Maker.

As I continued playing, however, the game started to feel like it had a deeper purpose than just being a simple life sim game. More specifically, it felt like Nintendo was trying to shatter the old “loner playing in a dark basement” gamer stereotype by using Animal Crossing to teach players proper socialization skills.

A crazy thought, you say? Perhaps…but consider the following:

  • Example 1: One of the initial residents of my town was a rabbit named Dotty, and on day two of my adventure, she asked me to visit her house to talk about improving its decor. I quickly agreed to a time…and then promptly forgot it and went off on a quest to gather insects and seashells. An hour later (in the middle of a Splatoon Turf War, in fact), I  realized that I was an hour late for the meeting, and quickly jumped booted up my 3DS and rushed over to Dotty’s cottage.As you might expect, Dotty was not happy, and she expressed her irritation to me in no uncertain terms. Sure, I managed to re-befriend her by complimenting her outfit a few times, but I still felt really bad about it, so much so that I wondered, “If I play games to feel good, why the heck am I playing this game if it makes me feel bad?”

    Suddenly, it dawned on me: You know, if someone had done this to me in real life, I’d be pretty cheesed off about it too. I thought back to the times where my forgetfulness had put me in similar situations, and decided that I needed to come up with a better method for remembering appointments, like actually keeping a calendar or something.

    In short, I brainstormed a self-improvement strategy because I missed a meeting with a fictional character. How transformative could an incident like this be with Animal Crossing‘s target (read: younger, more impressionable) audience?

  • Example 2: My town clerk Isabelle kept pestering me to write letters to the other residents, as they would enjoy hearing from their new mayor. I’m not much of a letter writer (or an email writer, for that matter), but I finally decided there had to be some cool reward for writing, so I dashed off a few random letters and left them with the post office.The next day came, and…nothing. I didn’t hear a single thing about the letters, and none of the recipients mentioned them as they walked around. What the heck? I wondered. What was the point of those stupid letters? I spent a whole twenty seconds on each one—didn’t anyone appreciate them?

    Soon, the lightbulb went off: I haven’t written a thank-letter in at *least* six years…how many people are left wondering how I feel when they give me something? As luck would have it, I had a stack of thank-you letters sitting on my table that I’d meant to fill out and mail after last Christmas, and realized I needed to send those things out, late or otherwise.

    Once again, I drew a real-life lesson from a fake-life encounter. At this rate, I’ll be a better person in no time!

Maybe I’ve finally gone off the deep end, but after all the articles I’ve read about the introduction of the autistic muppet Julia on Sesame Street and the benefits of introducing children to such a character at a young age, I’m starting to think that Animal Crossing could have the same kind of impact on its players. At its core, Animal Crossing is a place where players of all ages can learn how to interact with a plethora of different characters by trial and error, and be rewarded for good behavior while minimizing the consequences of bad decisions. While I doubt Nintendo has put the kind of thought into the design of its NPCs that went into creating Julia, I feel like the baby steps they’ve made in that direction were made intentionally.

Despite the climbing age of the average gamer, a lot of children are introduced to video games at a fairly young age (and I would guess that Nintendo’s audience probably skews younger than Sony’s or Microsoft’s). The problem is that a lot of games are isolating experiences, and even encourage players to ignore the rest of the world and focus completely (which in turn can lead to the awkward loner stereotype I mentioned earlier). Animal Crossing, on the other hand, is the rare mostly-one-player game that encourages players to communicate with others and understand their feelings, and developing that sort of empathy feels more important now than ever before. (There are a lot of elected officials in the D.C. area that could use a refresher on this stuff…)

I don’t know what moved Nintendo to create the Animal Crossing series, but the more I play this game, the more I think the world is better off because they did.

Yooka-Laylee: Is It Worth Buying?

Image From Nintendo Life

Nearly two years after the project first appeared on Kickstarter, Yooka-Laylee has started to appear in the wild in anticipation of its official launch date on April 11th. The reviews up to this point, however, have been all over the map, making it hard to figure out whether this game is worth buying or not. It seems like every aspect of this game, from the controls to the graphics to the genre itself, has been both loved and hated by some subsets of reviewers. What’s a consumer to do?

From my perspective, the critiques of Yooka-Laylee fall into two major categories:

First, you have the Genre Complaints:

  • “Despite attempts at modernizing the formula, its style of gameplay is still outdated, and it doesn’t stay challenging or interesting for long as a result.”Gamespot
  • “Developer Playtonic has been carefully faithful to what made those first [Banjo-Kazooie] games memorable…But well-regarded as those games were, 19 years have passed since the first Banjo-Kazooie, and Yooka-Laylee remains too true to that original formula.” Polygon

To me, complaints in this category aren’t terribly convincing. We all knew what sort of game this was going in: An open-world platformer with an emphasis on collecting anything and everything you could find. What’s so outdated about that? Heck, even Zelda: Breath of the Wild relies heavily on this formula.

The major draw of an open-world game is the ability to explore, and having collectibles to find gives you the incentive to do just that. It’s no more or less fun to do now than it was in 1998.

The second category, however, is Technical Complaints, and these carry a bit more weight:

  • “There’s literally nothing stable about Yooka-Laylee on Xbox One. Stuttering, slowdown, and frame drops are ubiquitous…” —GameXplain
  • “The game’s camera is dependable enough…but anything that actually requires a measure of precision…can be a headache.” —Eurogamer
  • “…the controls and physics never feel quite as polished as the old-school Mario, Banjo, or Ratchet games.” —IGN

These are substantial problems that must be addressed ASAP. Games shouldn’t just freeze in the middle of the action, and the player needs both the controls and the camera to be in good working order to do what the game requires them to do.

Playtonic is releasing a patch to mitigate some of these problems, and it’ll be worth watching to see just how successful they are in doing so. If the team can prove that they can handle these problems and gradually improve the Yooka-Laylee experience, then I’d say there’s enough here to justify picking up the game. If the problems persist beyond the first few patches, however, then that suggests the game is as good as it’s ever going to be, and unless you’re a diehard Banjo-Kazooie fan, you’ll probably want to save your money.

Just like with the Nintendo Switch, I’d suggest taking a wait-and-see approach to Yooka-Laylee. Unlike the Switch, however, you should actually be able to find a copy of the game if/when you decide to buy it.

Where’s The Hype For Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

After a month in the wild, the Switch’s hype level seems to be waning from its initial Zelda-fueled levels. As good as Breath of the Wild is, it has a hard ceiling on its replay value—once you’ve crushed Ganon and 100%’d the collectibles and side quests, there’s little incentive to return to the game. With the calendar flipping to April and a growing number of players having beaten BotW, it’s time for the hype torch to be passed to Nintendo’s next major Switch release, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

…Except that outside of a few trailers like the one linked above, Nintendo’s been pretty quiet about Mario Kart. In fact, they’ve been releasing more info about Splatoon 2 (and even ARMS) lately than about their upcoming kart racer. What gives?

  • The biggest problem I can see is that as an enhanced port, we’ve seen most of Mario Kart 8 already. Sure, the battle mode is completely revamped and a few new characters have been added, but the core of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been in gamers’ hands for almost three years now, and thus it lacks the surprise factor of new games like Splatoon 2.
  • The pieces of Mario Kart we haven’t seen before aren’t really things that move the needle. Is the battle mode really that popular of a mode? Do Inkling racers interest anyone that didn’t play Splatoon? At its core, MK8D is about racing with Mario and friends, and the additions don’t add a whole lot to the game’s basic premise.
  • It’s worth noting that we already have a racing game available for the Switch (Fast Racing RMX), and it’s a quality stand-in for hardcore racers who are sick of getting shelled to death in Baby Park.
  • I think the scarcity of consoles is starting to affect the buzz factor for both the Switch and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Two weeks ago, I was fairly confident that there would be more than enough Switches to go around by April 28th, which is partially why I counseled people to wait until Nintendo worked out the kinks of its initial batch. Now, however, it looks like the second wave of Switches I expected isn’t coming, or at best is coming in fits and starts (“Store X has Y Switches starting at time Z. Good luck!”). It’s awfully hard to get excited about a system you can’t find and a game you can’t play.

The big question, however, is not why the hype for MK8D is lacking, but rather what that may mean for the Switch going forward. The console’s made a pretty good first impression, but the Wii U’s commercial failure was so massive that consumers and industry insiders are still approaching Nintendo products with a lot of skepticism. Additionally, Nintendo operates under a more-powerful microscope than most companies do to begin with, so even small things like a lack of buzz will be magnified and presented as evidence of the company’s impending doom.

I think Nintendo needs to counter this skepticism and scrutiny by being a bit more proactive in its pushing of MK8D. Addressing console shortage fears through a “soft re-launch” of sorts would a good place to start. A Nintendo Direct or other large press event focused on the game would be even better. Better still would be teasing some future DLC content (bring back Captain Falcon!) that could convince current MK8 owners that there will eventually be enough new content here to upgrade. (While we’re at it, bringing back some old Mario Kart games as part of a Virtual Console launch wouldn’t be a bad idea either.) Nintendo needs to show off its marketing muscle and make sure MK8D is on gamers’ minds today and in gamers’ hands on April 28th.

My plan is to walk into my local Gamestop at the end of April and leave ready to take my Mario Kart experience on the go. My fear is that I’ll have to buy Mario Kart 7 to make that happen.

What Should Nintendo Do At E3?

As the above video explains, Nintendo has some sizable plans for E3, including some potential new IPs. However, Nintendo’s gotten some mixed reviews for their recent E3 performances, so I decided to brainstorm a few things the company needs to do to keep their Switch gravy train running.

First, we need to set the goals Nintendo seeks to accomplish with their E3 presentation. This boils down to two simple points:

  • They need to convince their fanbase to cut ties with their Wii Us, and convert as many as possible over to the Switch.
  • They also need to convince as many non-Nintendo fans as possible to take a flyer on the Switch.

So what do they need to show off to accomplish these tasks?

  • Showing off a new Super Mario Odyssey trailer is a must. This is an easy one: Mario has the highest Q rating of any of Nintendo’s characters, the plumber is a proven console-mover, Odyssey is the first 3D Mario title since 3D World (and the first true open-world Mario since Super Mario 64), and the last trailer from the Switch reveal has over 18 million views. People are really excited for this game, and Nintendo needs to do all it can maintain the game’s hype until its holiday release.
  • Announce Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Maker for the Switch, both with vague ‘2018’ release dates. There are really four major franchises that are tying people to the Wii U right now. Two of them (Mario Kart 8Splatoon) already have ports or sequels announced, and while I’m not convinced Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has enough new content to justify re-buying the game, at least gamers can upgrade to the Switch knowing that these two games will be there to meet them. The other two (Super Smash Bros.Super Mario Maker) are still up in the air right now, which means fans of the series have no choice but to stick with their Wii Us (or 3DSes) if they want those games.

Nintendo needs to throw these fanbases a bone and assure them that yes, they’ll be covered on the Switch (and relatively soon). Even some footage of an MK8D-esque port would go a long way in building up hype for the possibilities of their new system.

  • Adopt Splatoon’s “free DLC” gimmick for ARMS, and announce a new character/stage or two. Right now, ARMS is in the same spot that Nintendo’s inky shooter was back in 2015, as it’s a simple-but-radical new take on an old genre, one that has some intriguing e-sport potential. Right now, however, the announced character roster is a bit bare, and very little has been said about the battle arenas. Nintendo should treat ARMS the same way they handled Splatoon, and come up with some new fighter/weapon/stage designs that could be slowly (but freely) dribbled out to the public to maintain its hype and encourage players to try new playstyles. Given that ARMS will already have been out for a little while by the time E3 rolls around, the conference would be the perfect time to announce a first round of character additions.
  • Minimize talk about new IPs, and focus on those that best demonstrate the Switch’s potential. We know that Nintendo has been talking about showing off new IPs soon, but we don’t know anything about them, and frankly, I’m starting to think Nintendo already has too many IPs for its own good. (Basically, all franchises like Metroid do now are make people ask “When’s the next real game coming out?” and drive Nintendo reps crazy.) That said, it can be hard to innovate with an existing IP to show off the best parts of your hardware (Star Fox Zero‘s motion controls, anyone?). Nintendo needs to strike a careful balance here, and focus on IPs that really make the Switch shine without spreading the company thinner than it already is.
  • Elaborate on the future of the 3DS. As of right now, we have no idea what will become of the 3DS in 2018. Will it still get major releases from Nintendo’s iconic franchises? Will it re-branded as some sort of kid-focused or entry-level gaming device? Will it be killed off completely? There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 3DS right now, and Nintendo would be wise to set the record straight and lay out a roadmap for its older handheld.
  • Announce at least one new major third-party partnership. There still seems to be a lot of skepticism around third-party support for the Switch, both from developers and fans. The Big N could use a big reveal from a prominent developer (Square? EA? Blizzard?) to further you the system’s potential and put some of this skepticism to rest.
  • What about Nintendo’s prominent handheld franchise? This is more of a wish than a necessity, but if there’s a full-fledged Pokémon game coming to the Switch, a mysterious trailer with some 1080p footage suggesting this would absolutely bring the house down.

Above everything, of course, Nintendo should be its usual wacky, zany self when making their presentation. The humor and personality that folks like the late Mr. Iwata always displayed is what endears Nintendo to so many gamers, and if they continue to follow that example, regardless of the presentation details, they should survive E3 just fine.

Pokémon Face-Off: Kommo-o vs. Dragonite

Cool battle picture coming soon…

Dragon Pokémon. They’re hard to find, hard to catch, and a royal pain to raise, but once you’ve got a fully-evolved dragon on your team, having its power at your disposal is a pretty awesome payoff. While the type isn’t at OP as it once was (Fairy types just laugh at dragons, and everyone and their mother carries Ice Beam these days), they’re still potent Pokémon that you’d better have a game plan for.

Nearly every Pokémon generation has a new Dragon-type line for you to lose sleep over, and Pokémon Sun and Moon’s addition to the family is Kommo-o, a giant scaly monster that pushes you to the limit in the Vast Poni Canyon trial late in the game. The sudden-but-deadly encounter reminded me a bit of when Lance sprung his Dragon-type monsters on me in Pokémon Red, closing the fight with his nasty-tough Dragonite. Both encounters were close battles of attrition, but which of these dragons is the tougher out? This could only be settled with…a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Kommo-o (Dragon/Fighting) Dragonite (Dragon/Flying)
Strong Against… 6 Types 4 Types
Ineffective Against… 1 Type 1 Type
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 7 Types 5 Types
Weak To… 5 Types 4 Types
4x Weakness? Yes (Fairy) Yes (Ice)
Immunities? No Yes (Ground)

The numbers advantage belongs to Kommo-o here, as it both stronger against and resistant to more attack types than Dragonite. It’s worth noting, however, the Fairy types are a huge blind spot for Kommo-o, as it takes quadruple damage from their attacks while only having ineffective fighting moves to counterpunch. (In contrast, Dragonite can at least hit Ice-types for neutral damage with Dragon-type moves.) The raw numbers are enough to tilt this category in Kommo-o’s favor, but only by a nose.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Stats

Statistic Kommo-o Dragonite
HP 75 91
Attack 110 134
Defense 125 95
Spec. Attack 100 100
Spec. Defense 105 100
Speed 85 80
Total 600 600

With total stat counts at 600, it’s clear that these two aren’t playing around. The special stats are mostly a push, so it’s the other four stats on the board that will settle this category:

  • Both Pokémon will be leaning on their Attack stats for damage, but Dragonite’s eye-popping +24 advantage means it will hitting significantly harder.
  • Kommo-o, however, has an even-more-eye-popping +30 Defense advantage, which becomes even more imposing when paired with its type resistances. Even if attacker focus on its Spec. Defense, it still has a +10 advantage on Dragonite’s relatively-low 95 Defense.
  • Dragonite’s +16 HP advantage helps mitigate its defensive deficiencies, however, while Kommo-o’s mediocre 75 HP means it’s going to need every last point of its Defense.
  • The dragons’ Speed stats are pretty close, but being both the slowest and the squishiest of the pair is a significant strike against Dragonite.

Here again, I think the numbers give Kommo-o the advantage, but only by the slightest of margins.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Abilities

Kommo-o Dragonite
Bulletproof Inner Focus
Soundproof Multiscale
Overcoat

Unlike the prior two categories, this one isn’t close at all. Flinch-preventing abilities like Inner Focus have limited usefulness, and Multiscale requires some sort of healing-backed strategy to make it useful more than once a battle. Bulletproof and Soundproof block entire classes of attacks (which include some fairly powerful ones), while Overcoat prevents hail and sandstorm damage and nullifies powder-based attacks (and as someone who makes heavy use of Sleep Powder, this scares the heck out of me). Kommo-o wins this one going away

Advantage: Kommo-o

The Moves

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Outrage Dragon 120 P Outrage Dragon 120 P
Clanging Scales Dragon 110 S Hurricane Flying 110 S
Sky Uppercut Fighting 85 P Dragon Rush Dragon 100 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Headbutt Normal 70 P Hyper Beam Normal 150 S
Tackle Normal 40 P Aqua Tail Water 90 P
Bide Normal Damage Taken x2 P Slam Normal 80 P
Other Notable Moves
Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed Fire Punch Fire 75 P
Iron Defense Sharply raises Defense Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed
Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP

This might look like an impressive table on the surface, but in reality both Pokémon pay a huge price for their power:

Attack Power But…
Outrage 120 Confuses user after 2-3 turns
Clanging Scales 110 Lowers user’s Defense, uses Spec. Attack
Hurricane 110 Poor accuracy (70%), uses Spec. Attack
Hyper Beam 150 User loses a turn, uses Spec. Attack
Dragon Rush 100 Poor accuracy (75%)
Slam 80 Poor accuracy (75%)

Basically, if you’re looking for phenomenal cosmic power out of these two, you can get it, but it may not be as OP as you might think.

So what can you get out of these two Pokémon reliably? It depends on what you’re looking for:

  • For raw STAB power, Kommo-o is your dragon. Dragon Claw and Sky Uppercut are two of the best physical, no-side-effect moves for Dragon and Fighting types respectively, and it has a ton of stat-boosting moves (Dragon Dance, Iron Defense, Work Up, Autotomize, and even Belly Drum) to boost it from ‘tough, powerful Pokémon’ into ‘potential team-sweeper’ territory.
  • If you want a Swiss army knife with some decent type coverage, Dragonite is the better fit. With moves like Fire Punch, Thunder Punch, Aqua Tail, and even Hyper Beam at its disposal, Dragonite has a few options for taking on a wide variety of foes. (Compare this to Kommo-o, whose non-STAB options—Tackle? Bide?—are just pitiful.)

The winner of this category, therefore, depends on the answer to the question “What do you want in a Dragon, anyway?” For me, a Dragon-type Pokémon is a safety blanket, a Pokémon I can toss against foes that I have no other viable counter for. Type coverage isn’t quite as important as just being able to do some credible damage to my opponent, so I’m looking for safe, solid STAB attacks, with the option to unleash Outrage-esque fury in an emergency. For my tastes, Kommo-o is the way to go.

Advantage: Kommo-o

The TMs

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Earthquake Ground 100 P Earthquake Ground 100 P
Poison Jab Poison 80 P Stone Edge Rock 100 P
X-Scissor Bug 80 P Fly Flying 90 P
Shadow Claw Ghost 70 P Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P
Aerial Ace Flying 60 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Brutal Swing Dark 60 P Thunder Electric 110 S
Flamethrower Fire 90 S Fire Blast Fire 120 S

 

As usual, TMs ride to the rescue to fill in the gaps in both Pokémon’s natural movesets:

  • With Ground-, Bug-, Ghost-, Flying-, Dark-, Fire-, Steel-, and especially Poison-type moves (Fairy types beware!) at its disposal, Kommo-o finds itself with more than enough type coverage to go around.
  • Dragonite not only gains access to less-risky STAB moves like Dragon Claw, Aerial Ace, and Fly, but it also sees its type coverage broaden with powerful moves like Earthquake and Stone Edge. Some of these gains, however, are watered down by their reliance of Spec. Attack (Fire Blast, Surf, Thunder, etc.).

Dragonite gains a bit more in terms of power and flexibility, so it wins the battle here. Kommo-o, however, fills in its one major weakness and positions itself to win the war.

Advantage: Dragonite

 The Results

What is a Dragon-type Pokémon? André Malraux would call it a miserable little pile of power, and I would agree with him wholeheartedly. Dragons are less about working type matches and exploiting weaknesses, and more about drawing a line in the sand and daring your opponent to cross it. Dragonite may have more raw power, but Kommo-o’s defensive stinginess, its steady, to-the-point moveset, and its superior type and abilities give it the edge to emerge victorious from most any battle, just as it does here.

Winner: Kommo-o

 

However, Dragonite is only deficient in a relative sense: With its impressive stat count and raw power, there aren’t a lot of Pokémon that will stand in its way either. Dragons have been a stalwart of strength ever since the days of Pokémon Red and Blue, and will likely be a staple of strong Pokémon teams for many generations to come.